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"Big agriculture is the only option..."

News Section Icon Published 13/09/2010

Jay Rayner's article, "Big agriculture is the only option to stop the world going hungry," (The Observer, 12th September) reports that the dairy farmers the author has spoken to do not see animal welfare as an issue in the kind of 'super dairy' proposed at Nocton Heath.

If Nocton Dairies have their way, Lincolnshire could soon be to home to a mega dairy farm housing more than 8,000 cows, kept indoors for most of their lives.

The unnatural confinement of dairy cows prevents them from performing their natural grazing behaviour. These intensive systems, where cows are pushed to their limit to produce ever more milk pose a huge threat to their welfare. The anticipated level of milk production from high-yielding cows suggests a yield per cow of around 11,000 litres per annum, which is well above the UK average of around 7,000 litres per annum. High yielding dairy cows are known to be at increased risk of health problems such as lameness, mastitis, infertility, loss of body condition and ultimately a reduced lifespan.

The plans for Nocton have already given rise to widespread objections by local residents, politicians and animal welfare organisations. Over 172 MPs have signed a House of Commons Early Day Motion (EDM 1037) opposing the 'super dairy' and echoing the concerns of local residents.

Philip Lymbery, Chief Executive of Compassion in World Farming, said:

"The idea that we need mega-dairy farms to keep pace with demand for milk is totally wrong.

"Milk from cows kept indoors for most of their lives and pushed to their physical limits to produce ever more milk, is a future that the majority of consumers (65% according to a recent MORI poll) have already said that they do not want.

"If we are to preserve the integrity of our 'white stuff', we should remember the basic biological truth- cows eat grass and therefore need to graze.

"Far from huge dairies with thousands of cows kept permanently indoors, what is really needed is support for humane and sustainable dairy production."

Please help us prepare for the long fight:

We are gearing up for a long battle. Whatever decision the local council eventually makes about Nocton Dairies there will be much to do. The farm's backers seem determined to introduce a US-style intensive dairy system to the UK, and others will no doubt follow in their wake.

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